Penguin Random House hosted 50 aspiring authors at its offices on the Strand on Saturday (9th September) for a free day of advice and talks about how to get published. Speakers included authors Elif Shafak, Francesca Martinez, Afua Hirsch, Mahsuda Snaith, Dave Rudden and Fox Fisher.
The event is one of three free events taking place across the country as part of Penguin Random House UK’s WriteNow programme, launched last year to ensure its books and publishing better reflect UK society. Penguin Random House editors reviewed over 1,700 manuscript extracts from new UK writers to select a total of 150 attendees for the insight days, with two further workshops planned, one in Bristol and one in Newcastle.
According to PRH, the 50 attending writers on Saturday hailed from a range of communities which are "currently under-represented on the UK’s bookshelves", including writers from a socio-economically marginalised background, LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) and BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) writers and writers with a disability.
The writers were given the opportunity to receive one-to-one feedback on their manuscript from a Penguin Random House editor and were also given advice, tips and insights from authors, as well as from "leading" literary agents, to help them better understand the industry and how to get published.
Author and broadcaster Hirsh, speaking from her own experience of moving from journalism to writing non-fiction, said during a panel session on the day that it was "really important to get away from the idea that there is just one kind of writer from one kind of background". "I thought I couldn’t be a writer because I didn’t fit the profile of what I expected a writer should be. But I was wrong – anyone can write, and there are so many ways of being creative,” she said.
Abbi, a 24-year-old attending writer from South East London, initially begun writing as a distraction from the chronic pain she suffers from a genetic bone disease called osteogenesis imperfecta (OI); she now writes poetry and non-fiction biography. She said of the WriteNow scheme: “It’s brilliant that WriteNow recognises, and works towards lessening, the underrepresentation of minority groups in publishing”.